Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The iPad Is a Multimedia Device. So Where Are the Media? Be Patient.

As predicted, Steve Jobs showed off a new multimedia device today. One thing he didn’t show off, though: Much in the way of new media.

Jobs and company clearly plan on incorporating new products from newspapers, magazine publishers, TV networks and Hollywood movie studios as the iPad rolls out. But there wasn’t much talk about any of those media products during the launch event.

The only mention of TV, music and movies, for instance, came as Jobs showed off the device’s multimedia features. But the implication, at least for now, is that consumers will get that stuff into their machines the same way they get it now, from iTunes, and at the same price–or via Google’s (GOOG) YouTube, which Jobs did take time to demo. That is, no talk of subscription products or of other changes in the media consumption/distribution model.

The same goes for magazine and newspaper products. As predicted, Apple (AAPL) highlighted an iPad app designed by the New York Times (NYT), but there was no mention of how much the thing will cost or whether the paper will charge anything at all.

“This was a demonstration product. It’s too soon to discuss any details such as pricing,” Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty tells me via email.

Apple also highlighted games, bringing out demos from Electronic Arts (ERTS) and Gameloft. But both companies showed off versions of games you can already get for the iPhone and iPod touch.

Jobs did unveil one major media change: Apple is getting into the e-book world and competing with Amazon’s (AMZN) Kindle head on. Jobs made a point of highlighting agreements with five big publishers: Pearson’s Penguin Group, News Corp.’s (NWS) HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, CBS’s (CBS) Simon & Schuster and McGraw-Hill (MHP). And, as reported, he showed off a higher price point for books than Amazon’s $9.99.

But even that seems fairly preliminary. While Jobs’s demo showed off splashes of color and a more “paper-like” presentation of the books’ pages, it didn’t feature much of the stuff you’d expect in an “enhanced e-book,” like video, audio, etc. So it will be interesting to see how the books, and their prices, evolve.

And that’s the key to all of this: It’s going to take some time. Keep in mind that Apple kept just about all the big media companies at arm’s length before the announcement and didn’t even acknowledge that there was a device until very recently.

Apple expects that like the iPod and iPhone, the iPad will be a big enough hit that media companies will adapt to the new hardware. Some of the media executives I spoke to in advance of today’s announcements were fine with that, but noted that many of them didn’t roll out new products for the earlier devices for a long time following their launch. We may be looking at a repeat here.


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